Friday, June 22, 2007

Athens as Best I Remember It

The town of Athens is divided in to five basic geographic regions, according to the "Houses for Rent" ads in any local newspaper. These regions are: the Five Points area, the Five Points/Campus area, the Five Points/East Side area, the Five Points/Downtown area, and of course the Five Points/Highway 316 area. That may sound complicated, but navigating your way around town is quite easy, once you understand the layout of a few basic roads. First, there's Atlanta Highway, which becomes Broad street, which then turns into Oconee street for about nine feet before turning into Oak st, which then turns BACK into Oconee street before becoming Lexington, which then becomes Legion, for it is many.

Next, there's Milledge Avenue, a long road that arcs through several diverse areas of Athens. If you get lost on Milledge, there are some simple ways to figure out where you are. If you smell poop, you're on the East Side. If you smell sewage, you're closer to south campus. If there's a pickup truck in front of you that's full of guys who still think it's cool to wear a baseball cap backwards, you're on the road's "Greek" section. If you see a Baskin Robins/Dunkin' Donuts, you're at the end of Milledge, and you should pick me up a Mint Chocolate Chip shake. Note that the entire time you're on Milledge, you're still, somehow, in Five Points.

Then there's Lumpkin street. You'll find that Lumpkin is easy to recognize because it is completely undrivable. This street was once in terrible shape, but the city has fortunately decided to fix the traffic problems it created by keeping it constantly under construction, thus routing all traffic around it. This brings me to an important point about the roads I've mentioned, you should never drive on any of them. "Legion" road's identity crisis is complicated by a large amount of mall traffic, most of which stems from cars trying to turn left out of the Best Buy parking lot. Milledge is either clogged with sorority girls who can't bother to go an extra twenty feet to a crosswalk, cyclists who ride in twenty-bike groups because that makes it harder for anyone to pass them, or cars trying to turn around because they accidentally passed the Botanical Gardens entrance. In fact, the key to getting around Athens is knowing which roads will let you avoid all these major roads and any intersection between them.

The heart of Athens is, of course, the University. The leadership structure of this institution is modeled after the United States itself, using a system of checks and balances between three governing bodies: Parking Services, the Athletics Department, and the Coca-cola company. Parking Services has veto power over the Athletic Department, because at any time they could ticket the starting quarterback's car for no reason, deny his appeal to that ticket for no reason, and have his grades withheld until he paid it. The Athletic Department, in turn, has authority over Coca-cola because their football games are largely an excuse to sell Coca-cola products. To complete the circle, Coca-cola has power over Parking Services because their "attendants" would never be able to drive around in the southern heat, ticketing people for no reason, without something to drink. Coca-cola, then, maintains power by having exclusive rights to sell their beverages on campus.

The last thing you need to know about Athens are the town's highlights. The Botanical Gardens facility, full of native flora, is a beautiful place to spend an afternoon, which is unfortunate since it will be night by the time you stop passing the entrance and getting stuck behind groups of Milledge cyclists. The famous "Tree that Owns Itself" actually doesn't, so don't bother. You can pick up some local culture by visiting the Five Points/Downtown area and seeing one of Athens' 17,000 bands play. It doesn't matter which one you see, since they all play "sort of like alternative-reggae with kind of a blues vibe plus some folk and ska mixed in."

If you require any help getting to Athens, simply save up enough MyCokeRewards points to pay for tuition to the University.* Then you'll be on your way.

*MyCokeRewards points cannot be used to pay for parking tickets.

1 comment:

V said...

Best. Post. Ever.